Letters from Dharma Friends
Amida’s Salvation is Unconditional
Alice Marsh, Missionary
I was so grateful that you held a lecture for us the missionaries although you were extremely busy with writing your new book. I felt I received a lot of treasures and was filled with joy. Thank you very much.
When we hear that Amida’s salvation is unconditional, perfect and free, we have a strong urge to ask back, “What do you mean by free?” And at the same time, a strong doubt arises in our mind, “Why haven’t I been saved yet if Amida’s salvation is unconditional?” This is the self-power which has been the cause of the endless wheel of suffering. Because of this cause alone, we have been submerged and wandering for all these countless aeons without ever a chance for liberation. This is what I learned this time.
The five-fold teaching conveys to us Amida’s unconditional salvation, and itself is not the condition. I heard if someone considers it as a condition, it means this person himself is adding the condition. It was revealed to me that our minds are unfathomably deluded. I’d like to take the reality of impermanence seriously and listen to each lecture intently with a lot of gratitude.
Our Self-Power is Clearly Revealed Kohei Harada, Missionary
Thank you for the lecture to us the missionaries in spite of your busy schedule. In regards to the question, “The five-fold teaching sounds like a condition. Is it not a condition for salvation?” I heard that although Amida’s salvation is unconditional, people who hear the five-fold teaching unknowingly take it as a condition. I learned that when we hear the five-fold teaching, we are bound to take it as a condition; we tend to think “So I have to collect these five elements, don’t I?” “If I make a lot of effort, somehow I can make it.” This is the exact working of our self-power. It was clearly revealed to me that the most frightening thing about the real cause of our endless wheel of suffering is that we have no awareness of it.
In the preceding lecture, you elaborated on the story of the Tragedy of Osha Castle. In that story queen Idaike says, “In the next world, I want to go to where there is no suffering.” It sounds like the hysterical reaction of a person who is sick of this world. But the moment she says, “I want to be born into the Pure Land of Amida Buddha,” Śākyamuni Buddha let a smile of satisfaction play about his lips.
Why did he smile? I am often asked the reason why he did so. I have come to realize that it is already depicted clearly in the animated movie. In the conversation with Śākyamuni, she asks him, “What must I do to be born there? Only tell me, and I will do it!” Up until that point, Idaike had been listening to the law of cause and effect, and, believing in it, putting the teaching of ‘stop bad deeds; do good deeds’ into practice. Since she had deep faith in the law of cause and effect, she didn’t simply ask Śākyamuni to promise her she’d go somewhere nice in the next life; she was fixated on her own cause in the present that would lead to the result she wanted to have in the future.
Our self-power always makes us think “If I make a lot of efforts, I can make it!” Śākyamuni’s smile of satisfaction shows how much painstaking endeavor he made in order to expose the core part of Idaike’s self-power.
I think this overlaps your efforts to expound “salvation through the three Vows” in the new book. I heard how you are editing the draft. “Since I made it this much easier, I think I can expect everyone to understand it. No, in case some do not find it easy enough, I’ll rewrite it in an easier way.” Even after that, I heard, you were still trying to address the monitors’ feedback. I feel extremely obliged.
I learned from you the Buddhists’ attitude of putting priority on others. Thanks to your long-time efforts to thoroughly exercising this principle, the Shinran-kai of today exists and so does my bond with Buddhism. When I think of your immeasurable endeavor, I really want to repay even a tiny fraction of all that you have done for us and go towards the light.
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #34 | 2013, Letters from Dharma Friends
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